Online Convex Optimization with Unbounded Memory

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Raunak Kumar, Sarah Dean, Robert Kleinberg


Online convex optimization (OCO) is a widely used framework in online learning. In each round, the learner chooses a decision in a convex set and an adversary chooses a convex loss function, and then the learner suffers the loss associated with their current decision. However, in many applications the learner's loss depends not only on the current decision but on the entire history of decisions until that point. The OCO framework and its existing generalizations do not capture this, and they can only be applied to many settings of interest after a long series of approximation arguments. They also leave open the question of whether the dependence on memory is tight because there are no non-trivial lower bounds. In this work we introduce a generalization of the OCO framework, ``Online Convex Optimization with Unbounded Memory'', that captures long-term dependence on past decisions. We introduce the notion of $p$-effective memory capacity, $H_p$, that quantifies the maximum influence of past decisions on present losses. We prove an $O(\sqrt{H_p T})$ upper bound on the policy regret and a matching (worst-case) lower bound. As a special case, we prove the first non-trivial lower bound for OCO with finite memory~\citep{anavaHM2015online}, which could be of independent interest, and also improve existing upper bounds. We demonstrate the broad applicability of our framework by using it to derive regret bounds, and to improve and simplify existing regret bound derivations, for a variety of online learning problems including online linear control and an online variant of performative prediction.